IE 7 – is catching up good enough?

It seems likely that at the end of 2006 Internet Explorer 7 will be released. First, let me say that the IE team has undoubtedly done some great work when it comes to fixing the numerous flaws in IE 6 as well as adding a heap of new CSS support (more detailed in Details on our CSS changes for IE7), although I think it’s a joke that display:table still isn’t supported.

But, my main question is: is catching up good enough?

Let me explain what I mean with that. The problem is that other web browsers, such as Firefox, Safari and Opera, are light years ahead compared to what IE 7 will support; most of them already implemented the majority of what will be in IE 7 several years ago. And before the final version is actually released, even more features have been added to the competitor’s web browsers. So, in terms of CSS support and other web standards related issues, when IE 7 comes out it will still be the least complete and most annoying web browser in the market, holding web developers all over the world back.

I think Microsoft make a terrible mistake here. What’s the point in releasing something that still lags behind, even if it’s far better than the previous version? I mean, they’ve waited over 5 years to come out with this version, and suddenly it’s somewhat of a rush just since they’ve recently lost some market share. I say they should postpone the release and make sure that when it comes out, it’s the damn best frickin’ web browser in the market!

Dear Microsoft: rethink! Release something that’s outstanding as opposed to sub-par.


  • Nick Webb says:

    I think one of the main reasons M$ have developed IE7 is to try and fix some of the security vulnerabilities that are inherrent to the IE6 architecture.

    The CSS and standards support, as far as M$ are concerned are added bonuses.

    That, said, I agree that the lack of support will be annoying and M$ will continue to be the bane of a web developer's life for some time to come.

  • Steve Last says:

    I touched on this a few weeks ago with my comment on Dave Shea's post "New Headaches?":

    My worry for IE7 is that they haven't gone far enough…

    I totally agree with you Robert.

  • Jens says:

    What really scares me is the time Microsoft took to develop ie7. Where will firefox, safari opera and so on be in three years time? Will Microsoft still hang on to ie7 by the time we reach 2009?

  • Ã&Acirc says:

    The point made my Nick is a valid one. Security comes first. They realized some time ago that IE6 was not secure and they had to do something about it, and fast. So that is the no 1 thing to view in the new IE7.

    And as you said yourself … they are 5 years behind the other mainstream browser in terms of css/standards support, that is a lot of catching up to do.

    Say they had two choices:

    1. Delay the release of IE7 for about a year (my estimate) and have an unsecure browser out there for all that time. Catch up to the other browsers and be as supportive of css/standards as they are.

    2. Set a release date for IE7, trim down the ideal css/standards support and get the thing out the door. Take the next year and complete the css/standards work and release IE 7.5.

    To me, the choice is very easy. No 1 every time.

  • Chris says:

    I think there fundamental features missing in IE7. E.g. content-types for xhtml or generated content with :before/:after

    I'm to lazy to think of more examples, but there are many.

    Therefore I fully agree with you.

  • Steve First says:

    Catching up is better than getting left behind.

  • Carl Camera says:

    I say bring IE7 on — the faster the better.

    For me, the goal is driving down the percentage of IE6 in the wild. The sooner they release IE7 the sooner we'll see the percentage of IE6 begin its decent to insignificance.

  • Cyrris says:

    I was under the impression (and correct me if I'm wrong) that the IE team hasn't just been reassembled to bring out IE7, but to resume constant development of the browser. So we won't have 5 year gaps between releases.

    If this is the case then by all means release IE7 as soon as possible, as a starting point for the browser's resumption (I mean they need it in time for Vista). Hopefully we will see further improvements in v7.1, 8.0, or whatever comes next. As long as what comes next isn't years away. I think what they have done so far is a pretty good start, and there's no point delaying Vista again just to get the browser perfectly right.

    It has taken them an unusually long time to just get this far with IE7, but then we can say the same thing about virtually every Microsoft product. No surprises there.

  • Ã&Acirc says:

    Microsoft has commited to continued browser development after IE7 comes out. There is a roadmap already in place for the next release, and I am confident that it will be catching up sooner than we think.

    And contrary to some comments here, this release has not been in development since the release of IE6. This development cycle is much, much shorter than that.

    I am very, very happy with this release of IE and it definately shows signs in the right direction. Hoping to reach perfection in IE8 🙂

  • Devon says:

    If people would use these CSS or DOM or XHTML abilities that IE 7 can't render…suddenly it would be painfully obvious to Microsoft and average Joe users, that IE 7 isn't very useful and they need to switch browsers. Since nobody pushes the 800 pound gorilla…it remains an 800 pound gorilla even if it's become all fat and no more muscle.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    I understand and respect the point of addressing security vulnerabilities, but then I would've rather seen that they would have released an IE 6.5 a year or more ago, fixing just that, and then focusing on releasing a good web browser supporting a lot of standards and possibilities for web developers.

    Like Carl Camera says above, sure it's good to decrease the IE 6 users as soon as possible, but how long will we be grateful for that? Trust me, about a year from now we will bitch about all the various shortcomings of IE 7 while all other web browsers will be better (in terms of web standards and CSS support).

    And sure, Microsoft will have a continous development of IE, but still, it will definitely take some time before IE 7.5/IE 8. And if such a version is released fairly soon, then we will have at least three current different versions of IE to test in (if we don't count IE 5). So, in my opinion, it won't make my life better with adding even more testing to my development plans.

    I say: Microsoft, release the best web browser in the market, and make your competitors catch up for a change.

  • Carl says:

    I'd have to agree with Devon there. I'm an IE user although I have FireFox installed because i'm a web developer and i've been using IE7 happily since beta 2.

    The only notable website that appeared 'broken' was, which has now sorted itself out.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Devon, Carl,

    The problem with that is that if your profession is to deliver a web site, then it's your obligation to make sure that it works in as many web browsers as possible; especially the one that has the majority of end users.

    Therefore, web developing is very often about finding the common nominating level.

    And Carl, even if IE 7 is working fine for you with all web sites out there, it doesn't really say if it has held back web developers from delivering an even better web site.

  • More and more people, not necessarily web-know-alls, are finding Firefox and continuing to use it. I wait upon the day when Firefox has a bigger market share than Microsoft.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    I'd like an equal web browser market with at least two different web browsers being used by a majority of web users, to spur competition.

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  • Ilija Studen says:

    I'm a developer and author of one open source project (its called activeCollab). One of the first thing I learned is that you should never try to fix everything. Big versions with a lot of changes are bad idea. Use iterative approach. If you don't you'll:

    1. Keep the people waiting for long time. They don't like that and instead of being patient and listening to your excuses and stories about how great new version will be they'll look elsewhere pretty soon.

    2. You'll end up with too much new code. New code is bad… It breaks because it does not have the proper "mileage". Smaller versions let you see how code handles in production, not on your test machines. Priceless!

    3. You'll end up just talking: "In new version we'll have …", "That bug is marked as wontfix because we have a better solution in new version" (months away!) etc.

    So, my vote is for iterative development process. Bring something to the table and let the children play. I know that IE is far more important that some open source collaboration tool, but still the fact that big versions are bad idea stands.

    Here's a pattern that works: Fix urgent issues (security and bad UI in case of IE6), add some new features to keep kids happy, release, repeat.

    Hope it makes sense and sorry for my poor English.

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  • Robert Nyman says:


    I generally agree with what you're saying and naturally I'm for iterative develpoment as well. But, like I stated above, I think they should've released an IE version long ago with security and UI fixes and then put focus on releasing something that actually isn't behind when it's due for release.

    The risk with too much and frequent iteration is that we will have a lot of sub-releases with different levels of support, and that doesn't make anyone happier (and exactly in one aspect I feel Opera has failed).

  • Tom says:

    I totally agree with you: when IE7 will be released, it will be old. Microsoft should have done better with this product.

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